Letter:Private security firms have to become accountable

THE Association of Chief Police Officers is not alone in being concerned for the "accountability" of private security firms ("Tories let security firms off lightly", 11 December).

For more than eight months I have been trying to get the Department of Transport, the Highways Agency and their local representatives to be "accountable" for an assault on a 15-year-old schoolgirl by a private security man "guarding" the DoT's M11 Link Road through this part of east London.

I have been met with arrogance, buck-passing, deliberate evasion, nit-picking at the highest level and, finally, a blank refusal by the Transport Minister, Steven Norris, to investigate. Nor have I had one word of official regret.

This child - not involved in any protest - was knocked down and kicked in the ribs by an unidentifiable security man as she watched 30 security heavies attempt to wrest back a piece of land from anti-roads protesters. Police sent her to hospital with suspected broken ribs.

I was at the time in loco parentis, but even that cuts no ice with the DoT, despite the involvement, with differing levels of enthusiasm, of two MPs and one MEP.

This, though, differs hugely from the Highways Agency's public attitudes to violence by their security contractors.

On 25 October, James Boud, the agency's deputy director, appeared on Channel 4's Ride On transport programme, saying expressly that the agency would "distance" itself from any security firm using "excessive" force.

Hasty words? That programme had footage of an M11 Link Road security man viciously head-butting a man on the public highway. A few days earlier (21 October) BBC2's Public Eye - which revealed the existence of road security's so-called "Kick Ass Squad" - had shown much the same footage, plus film of another Link Road security man deliberately kicking a young woman in the head as she sat on the ground.

I have written to Mr Boud asking how much "distance" we might now expect.

Regrettably, he has so far been unable to reply. Accountability?

H T Jones London E11